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Bucks' off-season will shape next few years of the NBA

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Roar Guru
13th May, 2023

Jon Horst, the Milwaukee Bucks general manager, is approaching one of the biggest off-seasons of his career.

By taking a proactive approach, dismissing head coach Mike Budenholzer after five seasons in charge, he has signalled his intent. The Bucks will not rest on their laurels and “run it back”.

Facing one of the toughest off-seasons out of any team, the wrong move could have dire repercussions. However, the decisions made in Milwaukee in the coming months will not only affect the Eastern Conference juggernauts, they will shape the landscape of the NBA for years to come.

Budenholzer out. Who’s in?

The list of available coaches features some star candidates. The recently fired Nick Nurse is probably the golden standard, having won the 2018-2019 championship with Toronto. Other free agent coaches like Mike D’Antoni and Frank Vogel offer unique attributes that could land them the job as well. The Bucks under D’Antoni could amass an offence of terror if you gave the veteran coach the Freak.

Vogel, on the other hand, would construct a defensive bastion, especially without having to deal with the calibre of egos he encountered with the Los Angeles Lakers. Adrian Wojnarowski hinted that the Bucks would also look to assistant coaches from other teams. There is a slew of excellent coaches on benches across the league: Kenny Atkinson, Becky Hammon, Dave Joerger and Sam Cassell, to name a few.

The Bucks can chase any coach they want with the figurehead of Giannis Antetokounmpo in the organisation. Despite receiving criticism for his first-round exit and blowback from some areas for his comments in the post-game press conference, the former MVP and champion is still the poster child for consistent improvements with arguably the best work ethic in the league, to go along with a will to win that emulates the historic giants of the game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 and Jrue Holiday #21

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)


No coach should or would turn down the opportunity to hitch their wagon to the transcendent Greek talent. Whoever is hired, evidently, must change the system in which the Bucks currently reside. The quality of those changes will impact the strength of the Bucks and subsequently the competition that the league faces.

The most important factor for the eventual successor to Budenholzer will be what ingredients he’ll be able to cook with. Milwaukee are the only team with an average age of over 30 years old – 30.7, to be precise. Not unusual for a contender to be older than most of the league but, as with all contenders, the window can close from holding onto an ageing roster.

Key starter Brook Lopez becomes a free agent and could get paid decently following an excellent two-way showing this year. Yet, do the Bucks really want to stay old by paying the 35-year-old on a multi-year deal?

Khris Middleton has a player option that he could decline to see what he’s worth on the open market.

Key role players like Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder and Wesley Matthews are also out of contract, and once again aren’t getting any younger, Crowder being the youngest at 32. Realistically, the Bucks have a core of Giannis, Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen and Marjon Beauchamp for the next few years, subject to trades. Not exactly championship calibre.

So, how do you retool to stay competitive in the present as well as for the future?

A complete rebuild is out of the question, but a sideways shift still posits you in contending status, no? Look to the Warriors and how they managed to remodel themselves after Kevin Durant’s departure, winning a championship a few seasons after.


Finding themselves with -$27,733,797 projected practical cap space, according to Spotrac, the free agency market would likely revolve around re-signing current players, but as we’ve been over, there needs to be a change on the roster sheet.

Even if they were to make moves and find a way clear some space, a look to free agency offers no easy answers with this year’s class. A lack of star talent on the top end and a mediocre assembly of swingmen that could fill up the seventh or eighth spot on a roster mean that the Bucks are unlikely to progress meaningfully through this year’s free agency class.

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Now, we enter the realm of the trade space. One false move and you’ll end up cussing out a Frenchman in Minnesota (on the harsher end of the spectrum to be fair)!

A sign and trade of Middleton would offer the potential for proper roster movement.

The style in which the selected coach would like to play will influence the decisions during free agency, but the importance of the moves that are made cannot be understated. By depriving other teams through acquisitions and adding new wrinkles to the processes of this team, the Bucks will find a new version of Giannis.

We have been spoilt by the endurance of recent basketball giants such as Lebron James, Steph Curry and Durant but at the core of their career lies the secret that the team surrounding these stars fundamentally decides what limits they reach.

Steph Curry celebrates a three-point basket..

Steph Curry celebrates a three-pointer. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There has to be a progression from the squad, to help maximise the new era of Giannis’ career.

I suppose that’s what it all comes down to, really. The league’s best player has decided the balance of power, historically.

There are many different avenues that the decisions of this off-season propose for Giannis. Does the abject failure of losing in Round 1 make him pause and think about leaving Milwaukee? Knowing the character that he is, it’s unlikely we see something in the next year or two. But the seed must have been planted.

A seed that could propagate and become shoots in the mud, spreading out and moving in different directions. A negligent coaching hire and a couple bad decisions in the trade market would only exacerbate these sentiments. A Giannis departure alters the league’s DNA fundamentally. We would have to rewrite the expectation on what team but also what conference he plays in.

For the Bucks, if he leaves, well, that’s the nature of being a contender. They’ll fall out of real title contention as there is no way to recoup the value of Giannis’ contract. In turn this will open the door for other teams to step into the pressurised light of post-season success. The butterfly effect just keeps growing, other players may leave their respective teams to join new contenders; stepping up out of the Freak’s shadow in Milwaukee.

Yet, if he stays and say the Bucks and Jon Horst nail this off-season, they hire the correct coach, make the correct roster moves and welcome back a fresh Giannis off a long break, then this sets them up for the next three to four years.


Motivated through defeat and embarrassment, protecting his basketball image and legacy, extending the league’s status quo by unequivocally reasserting himself atop the mountain, Giannis’ restoration is the future of the NBA should the Bucks succeed this off-season.

So, what’s Giannis’ message? A simple one, found on his Instagram on 10th May: “I’m tired of the disrespect. I’m coming.”